If the cost of spending a year backpacking around the world is the only unresolved factor in your decision to go on a gap year, your decision-making could be accelerated by the following list, known as the Backpacker Index, of the cost of living around the world. Courtesy of The Price of Travel, it ranks cities from the cheapest to the most expensive. A total of 130 cities around the world have been ranked.
How the index is calculated - in brief
The index crunches the prices of a number of cost of living variables such as accommodation, meals, transport, a visit to a cultural attraction, and an “entertainment fund”. Have a look at the ten cheapest destinations below; each shows the daily cost of living. You can also click on the links for each city for a more detailed cost of living breakdown.
1. Pokhara, Nepal - $17.03/day
Pokhara is the “tourist capital” of Nepal, and has a picturesque and laid-back appeal for travellers. Its population is just 200,000. Pokhara is the cheapest city on this year’s index. If you’re looking for hot weather, the best times to visit are in April and May with highs of around 81⁰F. June through to September is the monsoon season with heavy rainfall, so it may be worth planning your visit to avoid this period.
2. Hanoi, Vietnam - $17.43/day
The vibrant, jostling and bustling capital of Vietnam is the second cheapest on the Backpacker’s Index. The main attraction in Hanoi is its excellent food, though. The weather is generally good all year round; temperatures of up to 90⁰F are not unusual in the summer months.
3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - $17.75/day
Described by The Price of Travel as an “incredible travel bargain. There are many attractions deserving of a visit, such as the floating markets and the War Remnants Museum. Ho Chi Minh enjoys great weather all year round; April is scorching hot with temperatures as high as 94⁰F.
4. Goa, India - $18.09/day
Goa’s population is over a million, and it is one of the more expensive cities in India. However for travellers, it’s still incredibly cheap – fourth cheapest on the Index. Most tourists visit Goa between the months of November and March. The weather is generally good all year round, with highs of 91⁰F.
5. Kathmandu, Nepal - $19.33/day
Nepal’s buoyant, bustling capital has a population of one million, and is a huge draw for tourists keen to immerse themselves in its exotic culture. Be sure to visit Kathmandu’s major attractions, such as Mount Everest.
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand - $19.89/day
Thailand’s second largest city has a population of just 150,000 and enjoys a picturesque, mountain setting. Chiang Mai is well-known for its great street food and friendly local population. Some months can be very humid (particularly in April); if you’re after milder weather, November through to February is the best time to visit.
7. Vientiane, Laos - $20.28
With its laid-back vibe, Vientiane is a popular destination for travellers. It’s also cheaper than Bangkok, so your money should go even further. The best time to visit is between October and February when the weather is milder and less humid.
8. La Paz, Bolivia - $22.87/day
La Paz is a landlocked country bordered by Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. It’s a large city with a population of 900,000. As a result of its extremely high altitude, temperatures are very consistent, remaining mild throughout the year.
9. Delhi, India $23.03/day
Delhi is a densely populated city with a population of 12.6 million. For the traveller, hotels and hostels “are not particularly cheap”, and many backpackers opt to stay in Paharganj. Delhi can be fairly cold during the winter; the best weather is generally thought to be between the months of November and March.
10. Quito, Ecuador $23.15/day
Quito is “spring-like” throughout the year, and its high altitude contributes to the consistent weather. Travellers use Quito as a base from which to explore the exotic Galapagos Islands.
Will you be taking a gap year to travel? If so, do you find this index helpful? I’d love to know.